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June 26, 2005

A table is not a cat - and other rants

Hello? :::tap:::tap::: Is this thing on? Are words appearing? Last I looked I believe I'm writing in American English so would someone clue me in why the hell I find I'm having to restate myself, sometimes in great detail, to even get an agreement on friggin' terms with people who disagree with me?

If you and I use the word "table" in a conversation we will agree that when we say "table" we are talking about a piece of furniture usually used to set things upon, be it food, books or flowers. Then we can go forth and argue the merits of four legs vs pedestal knowing that we both understand what "table" means. But if I'm thinking "table" and you include "cat" as a legitimate example of "table" we are never going to progress beyond a knock-down-drag-out scream fest when I protest when you start screaming that I'm a supporter of animal abuse because I don't see anything wrong with putting one's feet up on the table.

This is what has annoyed the crap out of me each time I get into an argument about "torture" vis a vis Gitmo.

Cats are not tables and playing playing loud rap music is not torture.

I happened to catch a bit of Hugh Hewitt's show last week when he had his Smart Guys segment specifically discussing Durbin's dumbass remarks. Hugh spent more than one segment trying to pin down Erwin Chemerinsky on what torture is and is not.

Erwin refused to give a straight answer (well, no surprise there ... Chemerinsky is a paid mouthpiece for four of the Gitmo detainees)

So if you have included infidel American soldiers touching Korans with ungloved hands, females interrogators (with or without reading Harry Potter to detainees), sitting in a 100 degree or 60 degree room for less than 24 hours and being subjected to the music of Christina Aguilara as torture we are not going to have an agreement on the term in which to have a intelligent debate.

Ok. We can discuss the Aguilara music thing.

This conflating of fringe items into serious terms is not a new strategy. Gender-feminists were really good at gaining media attention with this tactic when dealing with subjects like sexual harassment. Christina Hoff Summers exposed this tactic in Who Stole Feminism? Huge problem with sexual harassment in high schools? Well, like most reasonable people you just might be alarmed at the idea of gangs of horny young males roaming the ivied halls of high schools across the country, pinning nubile young females against lockers, feeling them up and laughing at their protestations.

What you would not think that in the category of "sexual harassement" (and to inflate the statistics) one might find "overhearing an unwelcome off-color joke."


And do I need to get started on the subject of "same-sex marriage"? Good Lord, merely breathe there is a reasonable argument against it being ordered by judicial fiat and suddenly I find myself -- not arguing the merits -- but defending myself against charges of homophobia and wanting gays to die. Discuss legal precedence? Discuss historical institutions and traditions? Point out the legislators realm in crafting contract law?

Hell, no! Included in the vast realm of anti-gay, suppressed homosexuality, shriveled hate-filled soul out to keep gays from the EQUAL RIGHTS is any statement that can be interpreted as less than pom-pom shaking cheerleading of same-sex marriage.

And I say that with a particular amalgamation of amazement and disgust because I actually think same-sex marriage is a worthy goal even as I oppose all efforts to achieve it through judicial fiat.


And if there is one phrase guaranteed to make me push myself away from the 'puter, least I rip it off my desk and heave it through the 2nd story window (and follow it) -- it goes something like this:

"I don't want morality legislated. I don't want someone's morality shoved down my throat. The law shouldn't be decided by someone's morality."
HUGE HINT you addle-pated public-schooled, certificate-in-cooperative play but no clue to what the Consitution says or what the Federalist papers are ...

All Law is based on morality. The question only remains WHOSE morality and TO WHAT EXTENT it will become codified in law.

THAT is where I begin my discussion and debate with others. On those very basic terms. I'm on my last nerve telling idiots that cats are not tables.

Posted by Darleen at June 26, 2005 09:15 PM


Not to sound like I'm disagreeing with you, but I am bored to death with this ceaseless quibbling over terms. Whenever one person says "We shouldn't torture people" and another person launches into a rant about what does and does not constitute torture, the debate goes right out the window. Because suddenly it's all about semantics rather than substance.

I think there are two kinds of people in the world. I think there are people who use words precisely and people who don't. I think those of us who like to speak precisely sometimes have to just suck it up and deal with those who don't, and not get drawn into debates over definitions. That was lies madness.

The debate is not about the meaning of torture. The debate revolves around two questions. What are we doing to our prisoners, and is it okay? That's it.

Every time somebody says the sentence "That's not torture," we go off-message.

And frankly, I'm a little pissed at some folks on my own side of the argument for trying to be battlefield lawyers. "Is X torture under such-and-such a definition? No? Well, then X must be okay." Sorry, folks. It doesn't work like that. The world isn't divided up into things that fit the definition of torture and things that are perfectly okay. God forbid we should show a little nuance here.

Is it okay to do what we're doing at Gitmo? I think the answer's yes. But I'm sick and tired of people trying to dodge the question.

Posted by: Jeff Harrell at June 26, 2005 09:43 PM


I agree! I'm tired of semantics warfare. And if I'm in a debate about Gitmo and I say that I believe what we are doing is legal, necessary and right, I'll get all sort of brickbats tossed my as a "supporter of torture."

That is exactly why Durbin said the US military was reminiscent of Gulags and Nazis, because HIS definition of torture makes even Koran handling tantamount to torture.

It's as if I say I see no reason to get upset over hearing a dirty joke and then being accused of being in favor of rape.

Posted by: Darleen at June 26, 2005 10:24 PM

Great, great post. Good point, well stated.

One minor quibble: "pom-pom shaking cheerleading"

A pom-pom is a big-ass gun. Actually a cannon.
A pom-pon is a big ball of fluff commonly shaken by cheerleaders.

dictionary.com listing

Just, you know, so long as we're defining terms here... ;-)

Posted by: Strider at June 27, 2005 02:30 PM

That was brilliant Darleen! Thank you for articulating that so well.

Posted by: annika at June 28, 2005 10:59 AM

- The moment that a debate turns to vociferous arguing about the real meaning of what "is" is, (ala Saddom is really a good hearted, terribly misunderstood, world class leader, who wants only the best for his people, even the ones he tortured and murdered for their own good) a second Godwin's rule should be immediately enforced. Of course to do so would take away one of the more important tools in the liberal debating toolbox, the "Lexiconal gibberish attack mouth missle". It must be hell belonging to a loser group and having to support what amounts too no ideas whatsoever, other than "its not my responsiblity".

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